GM tells Canadian government it plans to shut Oshawa plant, newspaper says


The General Motors Oshawa Assembly Plant has been building world class vehicles in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada since Nov. 7, 1953. Photo credit: General Motors Canada

General Motors is expected announce on Monday its plan to close its Oshawa Assembly Plant, according to The Globe and Mail.

Unifor, which represents about 2,500 workers there, said late Sunday that “there is no product allocated to the Oshawa Assembly Plant past December 2019.”

“Unifor received notification today from General Motors that the company will make a major announcement tomorrow that will impact its global operations,” the union said in a statement. “Based on commitments made during 2016 contract negotiations, Unifor does not accept this announcement and is immediately calling on GM to live up to the spirit of that agreement.”

During 2016 contract negotiations with Unifor, GM pledged to spend $400 million to upgrade the consolidated line at Oshawa.

Unifor is scheduled to hold a discussion with GM tomorrow and will provide further comment following the meeting.

The Oshawa plant, just northeast of Toronto, has two assembly lines; the flex line produces the low-volume Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala while the truck line produces the light- and heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.

The offices of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford were informed of the decision late Sunday before the official announcement on Monday, The Globe and Mail reported.

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A Unifor official told Automotive News Canada that GM told the union on a conference call Sunday afternoon about its intention to end the truck line at the Oshawa plant, an announcement that has been expected for some time.

However, the union said GM also was also “emitting severe signals” about the future of the GM Oshawa operation.

A spokeswoman for GM Canada told the Canadian Press that the company had no news to share Sunday night and would not comment on speculation.

Colin James, president of Unifor Local 222, which represents about 2,500 hourly workers at the Oshawa Assembly Plant, said in a text to Automotive News Canada that the union “will have more details tomorrow as GM is making a 10 a.m. announcement.”

“I’m not sure it’s a closure,” he said later in a phone call.

Oshawa Mayor John Henry told the Canadian Press that he has seen published reports about the Oshawa but hasn’t heard from the company — which is the city’s main employer.

The report was a surprise to two members of Parliament for the area.

“Extremely concerned about reports regarding potential closure of GM Canada Oshawa operations,” Erin O’Toole, Conservative parliament official for Durham, wrote on Twitter. He said he and Oshawa parliament member Colin Carrie were looking for more information. Carrie also tweeted that the report was “very concerning.”

Jennifer French, Oshawa NDP MPP, says she finds the report of the plant closure “gravely concerning.”

“If GM Canada is indeed turning its back on 100 years of industry and community – abandoning workers and families in Oshawa – then this is a callous decision that must be fought,” she said in a statement.

The future of the plant has become increasing bleak as North American consumers shift away from cars and flock toward utility vehicles and pickups.

New Cadillac sedans – expected to be named CT5  and CT4 – will eventually replace the ATS, CTS and XTS large sedan in Cadillac’s car lineup. And GM also builds the Impala at a factory in Michigan.

General Motors in June said it was investing C$232 million (US$175 million) in a mid-Michigan plant to build two of Cadillac’s next-generation sedans, but the automaker did not say how that will affect production at the Oshawa assembly plant.

Meanwhile, GM is expected to end production of the outgoing Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra by the end of next year, which would leave Oshawa without a pickup to produce.

Currently, through a process known as the “Oshawa shuttle program,” unfinished Silverado and Sierra double-cab bodies are shipped to the Canadian plant from a Fort Wayne, Ind., plant. The models are painted in the Oshawa plant and employees there perform final assembly of the vehicles.

The Oshawa shuttle started at the beginning of 2018. Heavy-duty pickups and a second production shift were added in the summer. The program, according to GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter, is expected to “run into late 2019 based on market demand.”

She said the program has been a “great success” and is “on track to build more vehicles (60,000 a year) than the original forecast.”

The GM Oshawa Assembly Plant has been building vehicles in Oshawa since Nov. 7, 1953. Before 1953, the facility produced McLaughlin Buicks and became one of six locations building Chevrolet vehicles before it merged with GM in 1918.

The Canadian Press, Automotive News, Grace Macaluso and Robert Bostelaar contributed to this report.


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